My Thoughts on Suicide...

So recently in my life suicide has become a huge topic of discussion, both on and off line. Long story short I have an aunt who has drug and alcohol issues, mental, physical and emotional issues and who just lost her teen daughter six months ago, so depression and suicidal thoughts are just the norm...  And with the whole bully thing lately on the news it's been a growing hot topic on most of my mommy boards too... So I felt it was a subject I felt I should address here as well.

PLEASE though, do not assume that my beliefs are blanket beliefs for the Pagan community or that I should be used as an example of what others may or may not believe.

So, I've talked about my beliefs about life, death and fate before. But I'm going to speed through them so that you understand some of why I believe what I do about suicide. I believe that life is a cycle and that each life is "assigned" a purpose before it enters the physical realm. The fates will not allow that life to end prior to that purpose being fulfilled. Once that life is ended in the physical realm we move on to a "Guardian Angel" position in the spirit realm until we are no longer needed here in the physical realm any longer and are able to either move on to the next physical life, with a new purpose, or until we ascend to a higher spiritual realm.

Now, the reason I went through all that is simply because to understand my beliefs about such a touchy subject like suicide, you need to know what I think about death in general. I don't see death as an end or something evil or bad. The physical body dies, the spirit does not, it simply moves on.

To me, for someone to honestly consider suicide, they are in a place of great pain or anger or both. In some cases there is illness, be it mental or physical, involved as well. For others they are simply at a point in their lives where death seems to be the only way to end their pain or at the very least seems better than continuing their life.

Obviously I would like to say that there is help out there and that anyone considering suicide can be saved. However, I don't believe that. I've been through the anti-suicide therapies, on the medications and hospitalized, and I will be the first to tell you that all the "help" in the world doesn't change the situation many of these people are in - especially in cases of illness. Don't get me wrong, there are cases where medical help is an option, but in my opinion, these are the people who weren't completely to the point of suicide in the first place. Many people, including myself, are very serious about their attempt at the time they do it, but they aren't actually 100% sold on the idea. It's a "this is the best of a bad situation" kind of thing. Many times they don't honestly want to die, they just want the pain to stop. For them, therapy, medication, hospitalization are good options and can help. So assume that I'm only speaking about cases where the suicide is successful or attempted by someone who clearly wants to die.

Whenever the subject of suicide comes up online I always see words like "selfish" "sad" or "tragic" used. However, I simply disagree with this idea. Of course it's sad and tragic for those of us who are still here, but does that mean that those who decide to end their pain are selfish because it could hurt us? To me, No. Instead I feel it's selfish of those of us who are here to place negative assumptions on those who we lost simply because of out pain.

I believe each life has a purpose. In some cases that purpose is to teach others a lesson or to aid in someone elses spiritual maturation. I also do not believe the Fates will allow someone who has not fulfilled their purpose to pass on. So, in my mind there are going to be times where the death of one person is in fact their purpose of life. I know it was the loss of a close friend which clearly impressed on me the importance of positivity, friendship and love... So who am I to say that maturation wasn't the goal of their life? Of course I don't know that it was either, but it's a possibility.

So what am I saying? Well, all in all what I'm saying is Suicide is a way for someone who is in extreme pain to end it. Do those of us who are still living miss them? Of course. But is it more important for us to have our loved one or for them to be at peace? And who are we to say at what point someone's life purpose is in fact to aid others through their death? If a fireman dies in order to save a child we call him a hero because without his death that child's life would have ended or he would have stopped "maturing." So how is that different from someone who's purpose was to die in order to help someone else to mature? It's all speculation of course - whether or not suicide is ever someone's life purpose. But who am I to know?

I guess my entire point is this - While it's painful for those of us who remain, those how have died are in a better place. Their pain is over, their purpose (what ever it was) is fulfilled and they are able to move on to the next stage. It's a stage we will all someday enter and ultimately it doesn't matter how we get there, the point is that we do.

I feel for those who lose loved ones, in any way. I have lost a great many loved ones in my life, and that includes a few to suicide. But I do not feel it's my place to decide when someone elses life should end. We can't live forever, and those who choose this path are simply speeding the process...

How to Upholster a Chair - Part 4: Sewing Double-Cord Welting

There are lots of ways to trim out a chair. Probably the easiest thing to do is buy a ready made welting or gimp. If you get something at the store in a contrasting color it looks less lame/generic. But if you're up for it, I think a self welt is the best option. Double cord welting is awesome for DIY upholstery projects, because it covers a pretty wide area and makes sloppy stapling jobs look great.

Making your own double cord welting is actually pretty easy. Here are the simple steps:

Lay your fabric down and fold it at a 45 degree angle. Cut an inch or two in (depending on if you are doing single or double welting) along the diagonal angle (also called the bias). Cutting fabric on the bias makes it super stretchy - perfect for hugging all the curves of the chair.

You'll need lots of piping, so cut plenty of strips.

I used the strips of fabric to stretch around the perimeter of chair parts to figure out generally how much cording I needed for each area (like the seat back, the chair bottom, the arms, etc.). You'll need to piece the strips together to make cording long enough for each area. Just run a stitch down two pieces, one facing up, the other down, in a upside-down V.

You can buy unfinished cotton cording in all sizes at your local fabric store. It's very inexpensive - usually ten or 25 cents a yard. I used about 40 yards for my two chairs.

The basic idea is very easy. Lay the cording down on your long strip of fabric, fold over the strip and sew in a straight line about a 1/4" inset. You can use a zipper foot here, but my regular walking foot was fine here.

Once that cording has been sewn in, lay down a second piece of cording and roll the whole thing over:

Then simply stitch down the middle, between the two pieces of cord.

When you're finished sewing, trim off the extra fabric close to the seam and you're done!

I used only Magna-tac to attach my welting to the chair frame. Like I mentioned earlier, the glue dries very fast and the hold is very sturdy. I worked in about 10" lengths. I'd apply the glue directly to the cording, wait for just a few seconds for the drying process to get going, then then I pushed the cording down hard into the staples and gaps in the fabric.

While the glues dries very fast, it's a good idea to keep coming back to push in the welting into place while you're working on the rest of the chair. By the time you finish, everything will be securely glued and sitting where it's supposed to!

It helps to really get in the grooves if you sort of pinch the cording together, almost in half.

The bias cut welting really does well with corners. It's super easy to apply with all the stretch and give! If you don't have enough fabric to make bias-cut piping, you can definitely make piping with strips of fabric cut on a straight edge, there will just be more wrinkles and it will be tricky to get your corners completely covered.

There are a couple ways to stop your welting. Probably the cleanest looking method is to roll under the edges, but my piping was too thick, so I just cut the start and stop pieces on an angle. I cut the stop piece a little long. This helped for squishing the cording together and covering up the white parts. I also glued the inside/cut edge of the cording.

Not completely noticeable, right?

I love how upholstery projects absolutely come to life when the trim is added! Home stretch!

Last step is up next - sewing the cushion! Hint: if you can sew a pillow, you can make a cushion slip cover.

My Values As A Pagan

  June is Pagan Values Month. So if you do a quick search you can most likely find a great number of blog posts like this one. And no doubt there will be some differences from person to person. Because of that it's hard to make general statements on things like Values, and I think that's the case with any belief system. So rather than creating an over generalized "These are Pagan Values" post which is full of more crap than words, I'm simply going to stick to exploring my own Values, as a Pagan.

   Now, I have to be honest, while the idea of sitting down and writing up a past about my values seemed very easy at first, it's turned out to be much more complicated than I ever thought it would have been. It's one thing to live by them, and completely different to have to identify them and place a definition on them or explain why they are so important. But, I am going to do my best!
  • Respect - I do my best to have a basic respect for all life forms and treat them accordingly. However beyond that basic respect I have for life, I do believe that respect on a deeper level should be earned, not simply given away. And of course, I believe we should have a great respect for ourselves first and foremost.
  • Honor - Not only to live by what we believe, but to live in a way which shows a reverence for the past, the Gods and our heritage.
  • Honesty & Integrity - Simply put, I see absolutely no excuse for being anything less than 100% honest or doing exactly what you say you will at all times! I don't buy in to the idea of "white lies" or "side stepping the truth" in any way - You may not like what I have to say, but you can always trust if I'm saying it, it's at the very least my honest opinion, if not fact!
  • Self-Reliance - When the chips are down, you will always have you! 
  • Loyalty - Holding fast to the alliances you form - spiritually & personally!
  • Equality - I don't buy in to this idea that any one group is better than any other - We are all a part of the Human Race, so act like it.
  • Education - There is nothing more valuable than a good solid education! Beyond educating yourself, Educating others can change the world!
  • Hard Work - Good old fashioned hard work! I started working full time at 14, and worked for my mother & family friends businesses before that. Hard work is the only way to truly fulfill your desires, goals and faith!
  • Courage - Without the courage to get up and live by your values, you have nothing.
  • Perseverance - Always pushing forward, even against all odds!
  • Charity & Kindness - Giving of yourself to better the world as a whole.
  • Tolerance - Understanding that not everyone is going to hold the same beliefs, values and opinions as you do and being willing accept your differences without reverting to anger or argument.
    Of course, I'm far from perfect, but I strive to live my life every day in accordance with my faith, my values and by always following my heart! And of course, to teach my children to do the same!

    **This has been a post for the Pagan Values Blogject

How to Reupholster a Chair, Part 3: Stapling

Reference posts:
Part 1: Stripping the chair
Part 2: Painting the frame

Also, I have been getting a lot of emails this week asking for advice on how to upholster different pieces. I honestly wish I had the time to help with all of your projects, but unfortunately, there is just not enough time in the day. I hope you're able to figure out the projects on your own. Otherwise, I suggest consulting a professional or a friend with upholstery experience.

Alright! So, now that the chair has been stripped of it's old fabric, cleaned and repainted, it's time to staple the new fabric on.

I forgot to say earlier that when you're pulling apart the chair, be careful to not rip any of the old fabric. Use a sharpie to mark what pieces go where and use these as templates for cutting your new fabric.

When you're cutting your new fabric, pay special attention to the pattern. Line things up both vertically and horizontally so that the pattern is perfectly centered.

Like I mentioned earlier, if the insides of a piece are still in good shape, I like to save the money and hassle and just reuse. I was able to reuse all of my burlap and batting here, which was great. However, I did run into a problem with the amount of staples I was using.

There were so many layers of fabric to staple down to a very small lip on the frame, that I was starting to completely destroy the integrity of the wood (not good). The great news about upholstery project goof ups is they are almost always completely reversible. Put a staple in the wrong place? No problem. Pull it out and try again! The only reason upholstery should be considered a more advanced craft project, is it takes some ability to think outside the box a little. If you have some experience with diy projects and sewing, you can usually figure out solutions to the inevitable little problems that come up.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I had hoped that buying a new electric staple gun that used smaller, rounded staples would fix my problem. But the staple gun was really weak and was more frustrating than anything. So my mom and I did some outside the box thinking and decided take some steps that would reduce the number of staple layers from four to two.

We used a big zigzag stitch on my sewing machine (the best model ever made) to sew together and reinforce the edges of the back fabric piece, the batting, burlap and webbing. It was so easy and worked really well.

I should also note here that I added those two pieces of brown webbing. I don't know if they were necessary, but I thought it might help give a little more support on the back (and it did!!).

Once the support parts of the back were all sewn together for reinforcing, we stapled that piece in place. Remember, the key to a successful reupholstery job is to reference all those photos you took of the chair in it's original state and as you were pulling it apart. Wherever possible, reconstruct the piece just as it was put together the first time. Don't reinvent the wheel here!

If you should get anything out of this post, this is it. Here is how I approach stapling the fabric in place for the perfect smoothness and tautness. I pretty much use this method on every surface I've ever upholstered:

1. Put one staple in the center top of your project, hold the left side out very tightly and run a line of staples out to the edge of the top. I usually leave a one inch space between each staple at first, and then I come back and fill in the spaces with a staple. Be really thoughtful about each staple placement though. It's easy to get sloppy and just put in a ton of staples, but that just ends up tearing up the frame and the fabric.

I LOVE this little tack hammer I got from CS Osbourne. It's perfect for quickly and quietly going over the staples and getting them completely flush with the frame. A regular hammer can tear up the wood and a mallet is usually too big, so these are great. I tack in the staples after every line of stapling, just to make sure the fabric stays where I placed it the first time.

2. Start in the center again and hold the right side and staple moving to the right. Tack in staples.

3. Now that the top piece has been centered and securely tacked in place, you have a great foundation. The next steps are all about pulling and getting the fabric smooth and very tight. Pulling down on the left side, I staple the left edge next, from top to bottom and then tack all those in.

4. Pulling down and to the right, I staple down the right hand side and tack in the staples. Your fabric should be really tight at this point.

5. The last line along the bottom is probably where you're going to need an extra set of hands. Have your helper pull down really hard and then staple in your center. Work out to the left with your helper moving and pulling down with you.

6. From the center again, work out to to the right. Your helper might have to use a pair of pliers for this last part. Again, you really want a tight pull here.

And those are the basic steps to stapling on the back piece. It's really not that hard.

Once the back piece and the webbing were in place, I cut out the fabric for the front of the chair back, again using the old fabric template (don't forget to line up the pattern!!). This time though, I gave myself about an inch of extra fabric to work with.

Okay, now for a little bit about upholstery adhesives. I have historically been a big fan of E-6000 epoxy. It works wells and has a strong hold. But I don't love how long it takes to dry (I get impatient holding and waiting) and once the first half of the metal tube is gone, I find it's really hard to squeeze out the epoxy.

I'm sure you know I am a HUGE fan of Fabri-Tac. Recently I started using this glue (also made by Beacon Adhesives) called Magna-tac. It is seriously amazing. It's similar to Fabri-tac, but even better. It bonds fabric, wood, metal - just about anything.

I used it a lot in this project to sort of reinforce pieces. I ran a line around the border of the back piece to help the next layer of foam and batting to stay put while I stapled.

Another favorite adhesive is Pro Stick spray glue. It is cheap and good. I spray this on the webbing layer and also on the second layer of foam and batting again to help everything stay put while I got the staples in place. You really don't want things shifting around when you're trying to match a pattern exactly.

After the Magna-tac and the spray glue, the next layer was pretty well stuck in place before I started stapling.

I followed the same stapling pattern for the second layer on the chair back, starting at the top in the center.

You can see below that I rolled under the edge of the fabric (that's why I cut it a little big). This helps to both keep the edges clean and not frayed, but it really helps to reinforce and strengthen the edges.

So again, to recap, just roll under the edge about half an inch, center your pattern and place your first staple in the center. Continue rolling under, pulling tight and stapling and tacking in the same pattern outlined above.

The arms are easy. Just cut out an oval a couple inches bigger on all sides. Pay close attention to to pattern though!

Follow the same stapling pattern rules above. Start at the center top and work you way around, pulling down the whole time. Get that fabric taut!

I was careful to run the pattern along the curve here (not straight) so that I could see the same design all along the top of the arm.

Once the staples are tacked down, I used a small scissor to snip off the excess fabric.

Next up is the bottom of the chair - the part that goes under the cushion. I draped some fabric over that part, carefully matching up the pattern, and cutting it a little longer than need, again so I could roll under the edges.

Follow those same stapling patterns. Top (or front in this case) center and working out to the edges, pulling tight the whole way. (see how the pattern lines up in the center here?)

Tack those staples in place and keep moving around and pulling tight! Leave the corners alone for now though until all the straight lines are done.

Here was another one of those outside-the-box thinking moments. The seat bottom was sewn in to place (one of the reasons I didn't pull off the old fabric) and it sort of sloped down, so that if I just stapled and pulled tight there would be a space between the chair and the new fabric. I needed to connect the new fabric with the old seams. After I stapled down the front, I glued a line along the old seam and pulled the fabric down tightly into the seam area. Later I hand tacked the corners.

You can see how the fabric slopes in here and now fits inside the seams.

The legs seem like they would be sort of scary, but they are easy too. Just cut out a notch in the fabric, but again, just leave enough extra fabric to roll in the edges. No need to staple the fabric around the inside of the actual leg. Just do the bottom row like normal.

The rolled in edges will look clean and by pulling tight down on the bottom, there will be no lifting around the leg area. If you want to extra support you can run a line of magna-tac around the leg. And don't worry too much about exactness here. The welting will help cover up the gaps.

Once all the straight lines around the bottom have been stapled and tacked down, it's time to do the corners. Again, reference the photos you took before. Here's what the old corners looked like:

For a corner like this, just pull down the middle and put one staple in.

Then just like wrapping a present. fold in both corners and staple in again.

I finished up the front first because I had to glue down the other seam parts. Then I worked my way around to the sides and the back, cutting around the legs, rolling in, pulling tight, stapling and tacking.

And then the stapling part was done!

It's really not as hard as it feels. It's one of those projects where you can figure it out best when you're just doing it. It will make sense as you're pulling and stapling.

Next steps: how to make piping and apply it to the chair and how to make the cushion!